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28 Feb 2019, 14:15
Kerstine Appunn

German renewable power producers face uncertainty as feed-in tariffs expire

Farm buildings covered with solar panels in Western Germany. Photo - Dietmar Rabich / wikipedia
Farm buildings covered with solar panels in Western Germany. Photo - Dietmar Rabich / wikipedia

Much of Germany’s renewable power capacity is facing uncertainty regarding its business models as generous feed-in tariffs for many wind, solar and biogas plants end in the 2020s. With the country needing more, not less, renewable power to meet its climate targets, new legislation, direct marketing schemes and blockchain solutions are being floated, experts told an industry meeting in Berlin.

Between 2021 and 2025, 16,000 megawatts (MW) of onshore wind power capacity will stop receiving guaranteed payments, as will over a million small-scale solar PV producers during the 2020s, according to experts at an event organised by the Clearingstelle EEG|KWK in Berlin.

Renewable power producers will retain many of their legal rights – such as the feed-in priority of green power compared to conventional electricity – Jan Sötebier, lawyer at the Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur) said.

The 2000 Renewable Energy Act guaranteed generous feed-in tariffs for renewable power for 20 years, fuelling a rapid increase in new wind, solar and other renewable capacity. For many installations, that two-decade guarantee is set to expire just as Germany wants to boost the share of renewables in power consumption to 65 percent.

Philine Derouiche from Germany’s wind power association BWE said a range of options were being considered to keep wind parks profitable, such as using the power they produce on site, or building power lines to connect them directly to industrial consumers. But most promising, Derouiche said, were proposals to adapt existing direct marketing schemes, either on the electricity exchange or by selling the electricity to targeted consumer groups.

Small-scale solar power producers, such as the many homeowners who feed power on to the grid from rooftop PV panels, might struggle to organise such direct marketing schemes, since, individually, they don’t produce enough power to interest direct marketing companies, Sötebier said. To ensure Germany doesn’t lose a large amount of this solar capacity (almost 1,000 MW are set to lose their feed-in tariffs in 2026 alone), new legal concepts would need to be developed, he said.

Susanne Jung from The German Association for the Promotion of Solar Power (SFV)  said home PV producers could keep going with local blockchain solutions. Alternatively, rising electricity prices on the exchange might keep them profitable. But right now, PV owners didn’t know what options they would have come 2021 and there was much uncertainty over operating costs, Jung said.

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